Ranking the most dominant Super League teams in history

There’s plenty of ways to view dominance in team sports, you could view beating a team 80-0 as dominant, it could be winning the domestic treble or winning back-to-back titles but one clear way to view dominance is the League Leaders Shield where at the end of a whole season teams can confidently say that they were consistently the best team in the division.

Some people poke fun at the League Leaders Shield as a trophy because ultimately the Grand Final is the competition everyone strives for because play-off rugby league is the best spectacle in the world. However, in a salary cap sport any team can beat anybody on their day hence we see shock Grand Final winners from time to time with teams hailing from as low as sixth securing victory at Old Trafford.

But to go all season winning week in week out and finish top of the table, that’s a true mark of dominance because it relies on consistency and chance and luck are taken out of the equation slightly more.

Teams can get lucky and avoid injury but to turn up every week and only lose a handful of times highlights true mastery of the sport on a constant level.

Here’s a 10-1 ranking of the most dominant teams in Super League history by win percentage over the regular season with play-off runs deciding tied percentages.

10- Bradford Bulls, 1999: 83.3%

In the last Super League season before the millennium Bradford secured their place on this list with 25 wins from a possible 30 in a team built on a strong defence.

They secured the league title with a huge 51 points having also drawn a game but ultimately failed to secure the Grand Final victory.

In a play-off system comparable to that of the NRL they qualified for the final having beaten St Helens 40-4, but Saints got the chance to save themselves having come second in the league table and made the Grand Final via the preliminary final against Castleford.

The Grand Final was then a showdown between first and second in the table but Bradford failed to make good on their earlier hammering and lost 8-6 with a Sean Long penalty stopping the Bulls cementing their status among the greats.

9- Wigan Warriors, 2000: 85.7%

Wigan slot in at ninth despite the two teams directly ahead of them boasting the same record of 24 wins from 28 games.

Warriors amassed 49 points across the season after drawing one game and only losing three whilst conceding the fewest points in the league and displaying a monster 555 point difference.

They miss out of a higher spot on tie break as they failed to secure their status as Grand Final champions with second place St Helens defeating them 29-16 in the big game.

A team with the likes of Jason Robinson, Kris Radlinski, Terry Newton, Andy Farrell and current Hull KR head coach Willie Peters couldn’t quite earmark themselves as Champions as an inspired two-try performance by Saints skipper Chris Joynt halted them.

8- Leeds Rhinos, 2004: 85.7%

Another side with the same percentage however this Rhinos team managed to win their Grand Final with it being the first one in the illustrious careers of the iconic duo of Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield.

Rhinos won 24 of their 28 games and lost only twice with two draws along they way as they tallied the 50 point mark in the league.

That figure of 50 points wouldn’t be reached again until a certain 2017 team that feature later on this list as they finished nine points clear of second-placed Bradford.

In the Grand Final they beat the Bulls 16-8 courtesy of another Danny McGuire try after he’d tallied 36 on the season, one behind Bradford’s Vainikolo who also scored at Old Trafford.

7- St Helens, 2006: 85.7%

The last of the teams to finish with 24 wins from 28 on this list but the most dominant in our eyes as this Saints side won the treble with the League Leaders Shield being joined by a Grand Final and Challenge Cup victory.

That incredible performance saw their head coach, Daniel Anderson crowned as Coach of the Year at the Sports Personality of the Year awards, one of the few times rugby league has been recognised.

Despite their place in this list being ahead of the other two 24 win teams Saints actually lost the most games of them with four losses compared to Wigan’s three and Leeds’ two but the status of completing the treble supersedes draws.

Hull FC came second in the league and the Red Vee defeated them twice in the playoffs to lift the title at Old Trafford with their standout man Paul Wellens crowned Man of Steel and man of the match as well earning him the prestigious Harry Sunderland Trophy.

6- Castleford Tigers, 2017: 87%

A new name on the list and of just a handful of clubs outside of the traditional big four that has earned the League Leaders Shied and ‘Classy Cas’ did it in style, winning 20 of their 23 regular games and then an additional five of seven in the Super 8’s to see them become the first side since the afore-mentioned 2004 Rhinos to reach 50 points.

Led by the brilliant Luke Gale, who secured the Man of Steel award, with devasting try scorers across the back-line with Greg Eden racking up an incredible 38 tries.

Tigers almost went all the way as the Super 8s format saw them make the Grand Final having beaten St Helens 23-22 in extra time¬† courtesy of a Luke Gale drop goal in one of the most incredible game’s in their Super League history.

It wasn’t to be though ultimately as Castleford put in a limp performance in front of a sold-out Old Trafford crowd.

5- St Helens, 2019: 89.6%

Another modern side with only three losses was Justin Holbrook’s St Helens who went to an incredible 26 wins from their 29 games as they clocked up an incredible 52 points on the season whilst conceding an average of just 13.6 points a game.

It was Holbrook’s last season in England and he’s set this current Saints team up for huge success as this was the cornerstone of their current run of four Grand Final victories in a row.

Tommy Makinson led the way with 23 tries whilst Lachlan Coote tallied 247 points in a team that was truly brilliant.

A Grand Final against huge underdogs Salford Red Devils, who were only a couple of seasons removed from playing in the Million Pound Game, saw them run out 23-6 victors where Luke Thompson put in a man-of-the-match performance.

4- Bradford Bulls, 1997: 91%

In just the second Super League season Bradford put up an incredible record of 20 wins from a possible 22 to secure their third ever title storming the table and winning by seven points from second-placed London Broncos.

In these early seasons of Super League there wasn’t a Grand Final as we know it now, instead what happened was that all 12 teams competed in a play-off system in kind title the Premiership Trophy.

The top four teams got byes through to the quarter-finals leaving the bottom eight play one another for the right to face a top four side.

Unfortunately for Bradford who featured some of the games great players-turned-coaches such as Steve McNamara, Brian McDermott, Paul Anderson with current media man Robbie Paul at full-back, they lost to Castleford in their first play-off game despite the Tigers coming 15 wins short of their season total. A flat and disappoint end to a brilliant season.

3- St Helens, 1996: 91%

The inaugural Super League season and another side who tallied 20 wins from a possible 22, this Saints side will forever remain in history as the team to win the first ever Super League.

Across all competitions Saints lost just three times as they won the Challenge Cup however they lost the Premiership trophy final, which was in a different format to the version Bradford played in during the 1997 season.

As opposed to all 12 teams going into the knockouts only the top four progressed and that saw Saints and Wigan face off in the final after winning their semi-final matches as the two top seeds.

*Note – Wigan actually posting a record of 19 wins and 86.4% which is better than some in this list but without winning the title.*

Despite beating Wigan to the title by one point the Warriors trounced Saints in the Premiership winning 44-14 meaning the side led by the likes of future head coach Keiron Cunningham and legends such as Steve Prescott failed to become the first ever Premiership winners during the Super League era.

2- St Helens, 2018: 91.3%

Into the top two now and this is a side who only lost two games across a 23 game season which is an incredible feat.

More impressive was the insanely strong defence that Saints displayed during the season as they posted a points difference of 415 in a season where they conceded an average of just under 13 points per game.

A team with stars such as Matty Smith, James Roby, Tommy Makinson and Theo Fages alongside Jon Wilkin having his last season as a Saint only suffered defeat to Wakefield and Leeds, and only by a combined 12 points as they finished the season with 12 consecutive victories.

The reason this team ranks second and not first for dominance though is that they failed to win the Grand Final, with this being the last time they failed to win it, going out in the first round of the eight-team playoffs to Huddersfield Giants.

1- Wigan Warriors, 1998: 91.3%

This was the first version of Super League to feature a traditional Grand Final, after the previous Premiership Trophy ending to the season, and it went to Wigan Warriors who absolutely stormed the league with 21 victories from a possible 23.

Whilst they were brilliant in attack with Jason Robinson leading the try-scoring charts with 17 just ahead of the likes of Henry Paul 15 and Kris Radlinski with 13, what was most impressive was their defensive capabilities.

On their way to topping the table and ultimately winning the Grand Final they allowed a mere 222 points in 23 games, averaging less than 10 points to their opposition.

In the first ever traditional play-offs they defeated runners-up Leeds Rhinos twice by totals of 17-4 in the semi-final and 10-4 in the Grand Final highlighting the incredible strength of their defence to limit the league’s second best team to just eight points across two games.

Their dominance saw six of their squad make the Dream Team with Radlinski and Robinson being joined by Gary Connolly, Robbie McCormack, Tony Mestrov and Andy Farrell.

A truly brilliant team who top this list of most dominant Super League teams in history.

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